Jan Thornhill, I Found a Dead Bird:
A Guide to the Cycle of Life and Death

Franklin Watts, 2010, ISBN 978-0749694821

A multi-award winning book in Canada where it was originally published, I Found a Dead Bird is packed with information about the processes of life and death. There are details here about bacteria, life expectancy, scavenging, decomposition, extinction and much more besides. The book is colourful and full of photographs. Thornhill is comprehensive in her exploration of life and death, and does not confine herself to plants and animals. Human destruction, grief, funeral customs, even belief in an afterlife, are all considered in the same matter-of-fact way that she explains food chains or mould. Her premise is that death is all around us, that it is sad and scary, but that avoiding the topic can add to our fears.

The book lends itself to dipping in and out. My two Year 6 testers enjoyed it that way and liked discovering intriguing facts. They were however surprised by some of the content, a reaction shared by the adults I showed it to, for example the section labelled ‘When people kill people’, which certainly pulls no punches.

The book aims at demystification, and it achieves this. It will enthral some children, but some may be deterred by the sheer volume of information, and some may find Thornhill’s no holds barred approach to sensitive issues upsetting.

The book would be most suitable for 9-12 year-olds.